You might be tempted to think “baking season” is over with the cookie swaps and yule logs behind us, but you might be wrong! We are actually entering an extremely important and baking-intensive time of year: Mardi Gras! If you needed any excuse to make festive colored cakes, decorate anything with bright plastic beads, eat as many pancakes as you can, or make sugar-coated puffs of fried dough, this is it!
After the Twelfth Night of Christmas, a culinary tradition begins in the South that most folks only associate with Mardi Gras Day in New Orleans – the colorful King Cake. Biblical tradition holds that kings visited the baby Jesus by traveling for 12 days to reach him on what we now call “Epiphany.”
Beginning at Epiphany and lasting only until Mardi Gras day, the tradition of a King Cake in the Southern United States has evolved from what was brought by European settlers in the 1700s to what we now recognize as one of the preeminent symbols of the revelry of Mardi Gras.
Today, King Cakes are used to select Mardi Gras Kings and Queens as well as to celebrate the season in households and at parties across the country. King Cakes have many looks, the most classic being a crown shaped pastry dotted with the sugared colors of Carnival: purple, gold and green. Some have fillings, others do not, though they all house a hidden trinket like a plastic (formerly porcelain) baby.
The trinket hidden inside each cake adds to its popularity, although the uninitiated often fail to recognize that finding the trinket inside your piece of cake may come not only with privileges (good fortune and/or becoming the King or Queen of the ball) but just as often with responsibilities (responsibility for bringing the next cake!).
King Cake was served at my baby shower by my daughter’s marraine (her Godmother, to you un-cajun-ites!), and I served King Cake at the baby shower I hosted for my daughter’s marraine (mah-rehn) in return.
Click here to jump to the recipe!
This quintessential New Orleans treat, the Beignet:(pronounced: ben-yay), is a crispy-on-the-outside, feather-light, heavenly doughnut, flash fried and smothered in confectioner’s sugar … and totally full of gluten. They are unique to New Orleans, so I haven’t been lucky enough to have one since my parents’ trip to Bourbon Street in the ’80s, when they brought back boxes of famous Café du Monde Beignet Mix. For years, the thought of ever enjoying such a soft, airy, gluten-free puffed doughnut seemed like an unachievable dream to me.
Now, sharing my gluten-free version with a host of friends and family (and one Louisiana native), I am happy to pronounce my gluten-free recipe a resounding success! Whether you have had and now miss Beignets since going gluten-free, or are just curious to try these little puffs of New Orleans deliciousness, give this recipe a try, whether it’s Mardi Gras or not!
Click here to jump to the recipe!
The last Tuesday before Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent and 40 days before Easter) is Shrove Tuesday. ”Shrove” translated means “to confess,” (Shrove Tuesday was the last day of confession and forgiveness before the Lenten season), and here’s another interesting piece of trivia: the root of this word today is found in the expression “short shrift,” or giving very little attention to someone’s explanation!
In preparation for Lent, eggs, milk and butter (fat) were historically feasted upon by the faithful in every possible dish, as they were prohibited during the 40 days of Lent. One of the most popular ways to incorporate these ingredients was by making pancakes. Hence, Shrove Tuesday’s more colloquial name: “Pancake Day.”
When it comes to pancakes, it seems that there are two schools of thought:1) the fluffier, the more flap-jackier, the better!; or 2) thin and delicate crêpes are the real deal.
Now, I’m not here to pick sides. No way. I love them both and they each have their place. Adults seem to covet those lacy-thin crêpes, and we enjoy them equally, whether stuffed with sweet fruit fillings and drizzled with chocolate, or filled with savory sauteed crabmeat and artichokes.
My kids are true fluffy pancake fans though, and they call for them as frequently at night as in the morning. We have a little tradition in our family that we call “Upside-Down Night,” which really gives the term “pancake supper” new meaning!
If you favor the fancy crepe style, I’ve got you covered. My easy crêpes recipe is just as delicious with savory fillings as with sweet!
If flapjack-y pancakes are more your style, I have an even easier solution: my new Jules Gluten Free Pancake Mix! This can’t-go-wrong mix will please every palate. Add berries, chocolate chips … whatever you like to enjoy these delicious hot cakes morning, noon or night!
Click here to jump to the homemade version!
Happy Shrove Tuesday! Happy Pancake Day! And Happy Mardi Gras to you and yours!